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Denver Health Executives Get Bonuses 1 Week After Workers Asked To Take Cuts

DENVER (CBS4)- Top executives at Denver Health Medical Center received significant bonuses this month for their performance in 2019, ranging from $50,000 up to $230,000, one week after frontline hospital workers were asked to voluntarily take leave without pay or reduce their hours as the hospital dealt with the financial downturn resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

denver health paramedics
(credit: Denver Health Paramedics/Facebook)

On April 3, Denver Health CEO Robin Wittenstein emailed hospital workers noting "the current situation will stress us financially."

She announced a hiring freeze and asked employees to voluntarily take leave without pay, use personal time off or reduce their normal work week.

"The goal is to reduce our total salary expense without the need to lay off employees or implement mandatory PTO/furloughs," wrote Wittenstein.

She said the hospital was also considering mandating workers to use their paid time off, mandatory leave without pay and other steps.

"The goal is to avoid these extreme measures if at all possible," she wrote.

RELATED: Denver Councilman Calls Hospital Bonuses 'Disgraceful' | Denver Health CEO 'Deeply Sorry' Over Timing Of Bonuses

One week later, on April 10, Wittenstein and her executive staff saw their 2019 Management Incentive Plan bonuses deposited into their bank accounts. They had been notified in late March that this would occur.

CBS4 obtained salary and bonus information for a dozen top executives at Denver Health via a Colorado Open Records Act Request which was filed April 10. It showed the following MIP bonuses were handed out:

  • Robert Borland, Chief Marketing and PR Officer received a $53,406 bonus added to his $270,000 salary, equating to a 19.78% bonus.
  • Scott Hoye, General Counsel, received a $78,174 bonus added to his $402,300 salary for a 19.43% bonus.
  • Michelle Fournier-Johnson, Chief Human Resources Officer, received a $65,012 bonus on top of her salary of $347,800 for an 18.69% bonus.
  • Connie Price, Chief Medical Officer, received a bonus of $95,792 added to her salary of $507,200 for an 18.88% bonus.
  • Amy Weiss, Chief Experience Officer, received a bonus of $40,588 added to her salary of $221,800 for an 18.29% bonus.
  • Wittenstein's base salary for 2019 was $967,155, her bonus was $230,275 -- which equates to 23.8% of her salary. She said her performance bonus is set by the Denver Health Authority board of directors and that the executive bonuses end up putting Denver Health administrators squarely in the middle of compensation for health and hospital executives.

"We want to try to pay people fairly," said Wittenstein. "Those incentives are what keeps people at the midpoint of the compensation range," she said, as compared to colleagues around the country.

DENVER HEALTH BONUSES 10 PKG.transfer_frame_951
Robin Wittenstein (credit: CBS)

She said without the bonus payments, Denver Health executives would be paid less than the average for their counterparts nationwide.

Others receiving bonuses of 17% to 19% included:

  • Gregory McCarthy, Executive Director of Managed Care who was awarded $58,308 on top of his salary of $304,800.
  • Peggy Burnettte, Chief Financial Officer, who received a bonus of $93,666 in addition to her $530,600 annual salary.

Wittenstein said, "The compensation approach we use is consistent for every employee in the organization."

Eleven days after asking broader hospital staff to voluntarily tighten their belts, and four days after CBS4 filed the request for information about the bonuses, Wittenstein emailed her executive staff members urging them to voluntarily give something back, suggesting they might waive accrual of personal time off for three months, take unpaid time off or make a cash donation to the Denver Health Foundation to support Denver Health operations.

"Right now, we have staff from across the organization who are feeling like they are being asked to take PTO, low census and furlough and they are looking to leadership to ensure we are also impacted by the pandemic. It would certainly send quite a message if we could report commitment by leadership to these actions, as a group," wrote Wittenstein.

She told CBS4 that all of her executive staff agreed to at least one of the suggestions.

"So every single member of our leadership team, 100%, is making a contribution," she said.

DENVER HEALTH BONUSES 10 PKG.transfer_frame_4443
(credit: CBS)

The hospital CEO said as of April 20, she was waiving her own accrual of paid time off, giving back two days every pay period from her personal time off bank, and was also using her accrued PTO to cover three days every pay period, saving the organization money. She said she planned to do that for a three-month time frame. Additionally, Wittenstein said several months ago she and her husband pledged a $100,000 donation to the Denver Health Foundation to be used to help hospital employees.

She said the hospital posted an operating loss in March and she expects more operating losses for the foreseeable future.

Since the bonus payments are partially predicated on the financial health of the hospital, she said she was unsure if executives would collect bonuses for the 2020 calendar year.

Denver Health treats about 930,000 patients per year and has about 7,000 employees.

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